Posttraumatic stress among women with HIV in Zambia

  • T Arnison Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Linkoping University
  • J A Menon Department of Psychology, University of Zambia
  • C Malambo
  • D Nilsson Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Linkoping University


Objective: To examine whether HIV-positive women in Lusaka District, Zambia, displays a higher degree of PTSD-symptoms than a HIV-negative control group.

Method: The study targeted 50 HIV-positive women from four ART-clinics and 42 HIV-negative women from corresponding VCT-units. All sites were located in Lusaka District, Zambia. The HIV-positive women were compared with the control group in regard for PTSD, PTSD-symptoms, dissociative symptoms and history of traumatic experiences. The instruments used were PCL-C, DES-T and LYLES-A. Prior to the main study, the validity of the instruments were assessed with a pilot-sample.


Results: Three participants in the HIV-positive group fulfilled the criteria for clinical PTSD (10.7 %), as compared to none in the control group. The HIV-positive group also displayed a significantly higher degree of PTSD-symptoms and previous traumatic experiences, with strong effect sizes, but not for dissociative symptoms. The significant difference in PTSD-symptoms remained while trauma-history was controlled for.

Conclusions: The results of this study clearly indicates that women with HIV are vulnerable to PTSD and that contracting HIV in itself can constitute a psychological trauma in itself. Since PTSD among persons with HIV has been associated with transmission risk behaviours, reduced treatment adherence and a faster disease progression, these findings are important to consider in actions against HIV and AIDS. 


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